Diabetes is a common life-long health condition. There are over 3.7 million people are diagnosed in the UK. It is estimated that there are 850,000 people who have the condition but don’t know it, although the true number might be significantly higher.
This is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.
- 346 million people worldwide have diabetes.
- In 2004, an estimated 3.4 million people died from consequences of high blood sugar.
- WHO projects that diabetes deaths will double between 2005 and 2030.
+ Type 1 Diabetes
This was previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset. It is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin. The cause of type 1 is not known and it is not preventable with current knowledge.
+ Type 2 Diabetes
This was formerly called non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset. It results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. Type 2 comprises 90 percent of people with diabetes around the world, and is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity.
Until recently, this Type 2 was seen only in adults but it is now also occurring in children.
+ Gestational diabetes
This is hyperglycaemia with onset or first recognition during pregnancy.
Symptoms of gestational diabetes are similar to Type 2. It is most often diagnosed through prenatal screening, rather than reported symptoms.
+ Intermediate conditions
Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and impaired fasting glycaemia (IFG) are intermediate conditions in the transition between normality and diabetes. People with IGT or IFG are at high risk of progressing to type 2, although this is not inevitable.
Over time, this condition can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.
- It can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. 50 percent of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease (primarily heart disease and stroke).
- Combined with reduced blood flow, neuropathy in the feet increases the chance of foot ulcers and eventual limb amputation.
- Diabetic retinopathy is an important cause of blindness, and occurs as a result of long-term accumulated damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. After 15 years of diabetes, approximately 2 percent of people become blind, and about 10 percent develop severe visual impairment.
- It is among the leading causes of kidney failure. 10-20 percent of people with diabetes die of kidney failure.
- Diabetic neuropathy is damage to the nerves as a result of diabetes, and affects up to 50 percent of people with diabetes. Although many different problems can occur as a result of diabetic neuropathy, common symptoms are tingling, pain, numbness, or weakness in the feet and hands.
- The overall risk of dying among people with diabetes is at least double the risk of their peers without diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes:
Symptoms include excessive excretion of urine (polyuria), thirst (polydipsia), constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes and fatigue. These symptoms may occur suddenly.
Type 2 Diabetes:
Symptoms may be similar to those of Type 1 diabetes, but are often less marked. As a result, the disease may be diagnosed several years after onset, once complications have already arisen.
Western Medical View
Diabetes is a condition characterized by chronically raised sugar levels in the blood. Type I (insulin dependent) patients are often diagnosed in their childhood while the majority of Type II patients are diagnosed beyond 40 years of age.
Early diagnosis can be accomplished through relatively inexpensive blood testing.
Treatment involves lowering blood glucose and the levels of other known risk factors that damage blood vessels.
Tobacco use cessation is also important to avoid complications.
Chinese Medical View
According to the World Health Organisation, acupuncture has a therapeutic effect on diabetes mellitus (non-insulin-dependent)*
In China, it is treated with a combination of Chinese and Western medicine including the use of insulin, with most patients taking Chinese medicine as a complementary treatment, which has shown to be very effective and has few side effects.
This condition affects all the major systems in the body, i.e., the respiratory, digestive, circulatory and reproductive, although in individual patients the degree by which each system is affected can be different. The treatment (acupuncture and herbs) therefore is adapted to each patient and changes over time.
According to a report from China, a CM formula cured 7 patients who were all over 40, non-insulin dependent, and without complications. In a different report, a CM formula containing 14 herbs was used to treat 33 diabetic ketoacidosis patients, 22 of whom showed marked improvement, 6 showed improvement and 5 showed no improvement.
Although diabetes does not normally affect life expectancy, it can lead to serious complications. Chinese medicine, together with conventional medicine can keep symptoms under control and maintain a good quality of life for the majority of patients.
It is therefore imperative that in seeking to complement treatment with Chinese medicine, a patient does not stop taking any regular medication from their GPs or consultants and that the blood glucose levels are closely monitored whilst on a course of treatment.
Simple lifestyle measures have been shown to be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of type 2. To help prevent type 2 and its complications, people should:
- Achieve and maintain healthy body weight;
- Be physically active – at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days. More activity is required for weight control;
- Eat a healthy diet of between three and five servings of fruit and vegetables a day and -reduce sugar and saturated fats intake;
- Avoid tobacco use – smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
For personalised advice on diet and lifestyle, please ask the doctor during your consultation.
Please be reminded that we offer free online health advice.
+ *CLINICAL TRIALS
Kang SY et al. [Clinical investigation of the treatment of diabetes mellitus with timing acupuncture.] Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1995, 15(1):6-8 [in Chinese].
Latief R. The effect of san yin ciao point on hyperglycemia of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Cermin Dumia Kedokteran, 1987, (44):20-23 [in Indonesian].